The SPAR National Netball Championships to be played at the Ugu Sports and Leisure Centre this week will have a very different look.
Teams will represent provinces rather than regions, as was the case in the past, and the tournament will combine senior and Under-21 players.
“The aim is to raise the standard of play at the tournament, and to ensure that it is all high performance,” explained Netball South Africa Director of Demarcation and Structures, Mami Diale.
She said they were expecting as many as 42 teams, with provinces like Gauteng sending four senior and four Under-21 teams.
This would make the championships the biggest inter-provincial competition of any sporting code with close to 1000 players participating.
“The seniors and Under-21s will play separate competitions, which will be divided into A and B sections. Players who used to compete in the C-section of the tournament will now play in their province until they are good enough to compete at the highest level,” she said.
Diale said the A-section would be like a mini Brutal Fruit competition, with the teams competing on a round robin basis. Successful teams would go through to semifinal and final matches.
Most members of the SPAR Protea team, which finished in fifth place at the Netball World Cup in Sydney on Sunday, will not be taking part in the national championships.
They arrived home from Australia on Monday, and apart from being very tired after an intense period of play at a high standard, most of them have to return to work.
The new format means there will definitely be a new champion this year.
Gauteng North won the championships last year, beating Dr Kenneth Kaunda (North West South) in the final by 63 goals to 37. The new format means that these two teams will not be present this year.
“I’m excited about the new format,” said Mike Prentice, SPAR Marketing Executive.
“Anything that raises standards and promotes high performance is to be welcomed. We are proud that our Proteas were able to retain their fifth ranking at the Netball World Cup, and an improvement in the national standard could lead to us improving our ranking in four years time.”
“Netball has for many years been our flagship sponsorship because the vast majority of women in South Africa have been touched by netball at some stage in their lives, and the bulk of our customers are women,” said Prentice.
The annual tournament will be played from Monday (24 August) with the final scheduled for Saturday morning (29 August).
As per tradition, the SPAR National Netball championship is played during women’s months and is the official celebration of women’s month by Netball South Africa.